Frank didn’t like dreaming. Either he had a pleasant dream and was disappointed by waking up in his current life, or he had a nightmare that embarrassed him. Imagine if you had a friend that lied to you like this, like your brain did. That friend would be an asshole. Say your friend played a practical joke that convinced you that you were suddenly nude at your high school; you would hate that friend.
This was the thought Frank was having when he woke up on a plane, Flight 2778 from SAC to DFW. The flight attendant asked if he wanted anything to drink and he sloppily yanked out his headphones and then she asked again. He ordered a cranberry-apple juice, the whole can, and closed his eyes again, even though he could tell he wasn’t going to fall back asleep. The woman next to him was watching something on her iPad that could only have been a show about the end of a police flashlight and the kid in the row in front of him was bucking around in his seat like it wasn’t the middle of the night. At one point the kid’s mom asked him to be still and the kid told his mom to “suck his little butt,” and the mom gave up. Frank briefly considered holding his pillow to his ears like someone in a movie does to show they’re desperate to drown out noise. That wouldn’t work, Frank thought. You can’t press your hands to your head and sleep. If I ever made a movie it wouldn’t have that thing, Frank noted.
Frank turned his body so he was fully facing the window. He accepted that he was awake. It wasn’t unpleasant, if only because he was still in a Xanax haze from his nap, his consciousness wearing a warm shirt. There was only an hour and twenty minutes left in his flight; an amount of time he could easily conceive. He was calm and alert. He stared out at the bright moon and the thick passing clouds.
It was there, during a rare moment where he was truly thinking of nothing, Frank saw it out on the wing. A dark hunkered over outline at first, but the bright moon made it clearly visible. Frank saw a creature out on the wing of the plane like in that episode of the Twilight Zone.
Holy shit, this is like in that episode of the Twilight Zone, Frank thought.
He blinked hard to see if it was a trick of the light, or some weird eye floaters, or like a cloud that got stuck. Clouds don’t get stuck, you idiot, he said to himself. He shut and re-opened the window shade, a sort of manual blink, but it was still there. He covered one eye. Still there.
A creature on the wing, just like the Twilight Zone.
It wasn’t gremliny, like the Lithgow one, or a man in a kind of melted ape suit like the William Shatner one. It was real. It was man-sized. It had kind of a dog’s hind legs but stood relatively upright. It had long arms and what looked like claw hands. It was grey, and had sort of a fish head; big black dead eyes, a big frowning mouth. It looked at Frank for a second and Frank made a stupid little gasping sound. No one else noticed. The other window seaters were asleep.
The creature was (of course it was, he thought) doing the stuff from that Twilight Zone episode: hacking at the wing, trying to pry panels off, general misbehavior. This was too big of a coincidence. He must be dreaming...but he could tell he was awake. He was awake and he was very much seeing a creature on the wing, trying to tear it apart, which was a thing he had seen before on TV.
Frank sat for a second, unsure of his next move.
Who do I tell? The pilot?
Do I call the flight attendant?
Do I tell my fellow passengers?
Are we all going to die if I don’t do something?
He reached for the call button but stopped short.
They’re going to think I’m insane, he thought. They’ll think that I watched that specific Twilight Zone and I'm all zonked on anxiety medication. Sure he’d taken medication, but it was the normal amount. Right? Had he accidentally taken like 12? Was he looking at his phone and had passively taken 12 Xanax?
He ruled out hallucination. He was just too lucid. He knew how lucidity felt, and baby this was it. Still, this would likely be very embarrassing. He would tell someone there was a creature on the wing, trying to tear the plane apart, and they would say “like that one Twlight Zone?” And he would have to say “yes, like that Twilight Zone, but it’s happening for real.”
And they would not believe him, of course!
With good reason!
Because it’s insane!
They would say “are you sure, pal?” and he would say “yes I’m extremely sure,” and they would say “are you sure you haven’t been drinking, fella?” and he’d say “I don’t drink! I got a DUI right after college, no one got hurt or anything, and I’m not proud of it, but I swore off drinking then! I haven’t drank since, for real!” Oh God, he would have to admit to his DUI to these random people on his flight.
And then of course when whoever he was talking to, probably some beautiful red-haired flight attendant, would look out the window and of course, the creature wouldn’t be there. And then Gretchen, that sounds right, the red-haired flight attendant with glasses, a thing he always liked, would say “Ok shooter, I think you just had a bad dream” and Frank would have to say “No I’m fully lucid! It’s just disappearing under the wing or something when you look, like in the Twilight Zone! I know how that sounds because it seemed like I was already just having some kind of insane living dream about that specific episode, except I’m the William Shatner!”
And then what? He would have to spaz out, force an emergency landing in order to stop a plane crash? Could he even commit to freaking out like the William Shatner character in a convincing enough way to make the plane land? Frank was not a good actor and could never commit to any kind of ruse. He always gave away a surprise party. He gave Christmas presents on December 22nd because he couldn’t deal with having a secret. He was tissue paper. He was butter in the microwave.
Realistically, Frank thought he would probably work up a little sweat, scream, “There’s something on the—“and when everyone turned he would say “wing of the plane,” in a quiet, embarrassed voice. He would sit back down, probably. He felt the heat in his cheeks that comes with knowing exactly what you are like.
So Frank did the next thing he thought of, which was to try and startle the creature. Maybe it was like “he’s more afraid of people than we are of him,” like a deer or something. He could startle it with a sudden movement. Frank tapped on the glass of the window. It was obviously too thick. Frank knocked. He knocked on the glass and of course, it did nothing. This was a modern airplane, for Moses’ sake. Frank then waved. It was all he could think to do. He waved like the creature was a baby in a restaurant.
For a second, Frank waving, or something else entirely, drew the creature’s attention. And then immediately the creature looked down and pried a whole panel off of the plane’s wing. Oh right, Frank thought, this thing is literally riding on the outside of a plane, it probably doesn’t just startle.
The creature put its hands into the guts of the wing and immediately the plane began to buck and weave. The pilot came over the loudspeaker and instructed everyone to buckle up. They were experiencing some unexpected turbulence. Of fucking course they were, Frank thought, there’s a goddamn Twilight Zone thing on the plane!
I’ll ignore it, Frank thought. I’ll just sit here and think about something else. I’ll count. That’s what I’ll do, I’ll count some numbers, Frank thought. That’s perfect. There are so many I won’t run out. He got to 27 when the lights in the cabin flickered on and off and it was clearly because of the creature. Frank let out a little yelp and the woman next to him, who was still watching what could only be a solar eclipse on her iPad at full brightness, glared at him.
This is how I die, Frank thought. I die in a plane crash because of a fucking creature on the wing of the plane like in the Twilight Zone. Frank tried to get up and say something but was frozen. The plane pitched and yawed, but all Frank could think of was how everyone would tell him how he was just seeing things and that he was crazy and then one thing would lead to another and he would have to talk about his DUI, probably, and the time he paid a red-headed woman on the internet $250 dollars to watch her fill her ice cube trays in her underwear. He had a red-heads thing and did NOT want to have to MAYBE tell everyone on the plane about it!
Frank looked back out at the creature on the wing and it was really going to town. It was pulling out wires. Sparks were flying. This is very bad, Frank thought.
He swallowed, trying to fight off his new cottonmouth. He imagined what it would be like to die in a plane crash. He tried to visualize the rapid deceleration, the air pressure annihilating his eardrums, the actual moment of impact. He tried to visualize his head snapping forward, hopefully killing him instantly, and what that would feel like. He tried to imagine hitting the ground from this high up. He tried to picture bursting into flames.
Frank couldn’t take it any longer. He was sweating through his shirt. His eyes were welling up the way they did when he was a child and would get lost at the mall. He saw the flight attendant, an extremely reasonable looking brunette woman in her forties, and motioned to her.
“Can I get you something, Sir?”
Frank couldn’t speak. The words were caught on the back of his tongue. Really? That's what was happening, Frank thought? She was never going to believe him. No one was.
He started weeping.
“Sir, are you alright?”
Frank’s mouth wouldn’t move. His tears ran onto his tongue, salty and slick. The plane pitched up and down, with audible ‘oh’s’ from the other passengers. The babies that weren’t already crying started to cry too. People complained loudly. “This is making me sick! I’m 78 years old for Christ’s sake!” said some guy.
“Sir, I’m sorry, but I really need to return to my seat, the fasten seatbelt sign is on, so if you could just tell me what’s the matter...”
Frank did his best. He motioned to the window, his mouth contorted mid sob. The flight attendant looked at him with her most sympathetic face. He was probably very ill, she thought.
“I’m sorry sweetheart, the turbulence should end soon. Turbulence is very hard, especially if you don’t like to fly.”
Frank jerked his crying head toward the window. He pressed his finger on the glass. He readied himself for the humiliation.
“Oh Jesus. There’s something on the wing!” the flight attendant yelled.
“Holy shit, there is!” said the woman with the insanely bright iPad. “Hey everyone! Come everybody! Look!”
The flight attendant rushed to the cockpit to tell the pilot. Slowly several passengers, in collective defiance of the seatbelt sign, got up and went over to Frank’s window, and looked at the creature.
“Oh weird. What is that?”
Frank was shocked. “You can see it?” Frank choked out.
“Of course? It’s right there.”
“That’s like that one episode of the Twilight Zone,” said that guy who was 78.
“What’s the Twilight Zone?” said the young butt sucking mother with the rowdy kid.
“...a missing link in the evolutionary chain between humans and dolphins. It’s believed that Havenstein’s Creature, named after renowned biologist Dr. Robert Havenstein, who happened to be the first scientist on the scene when the plane emergency landed in Las Cruces, New Mexico, had accidentally been caught in a fishing net near Vancouver. It is also believed that Havenstein’s Creature, affectionately known as “Bat Shark” on social media for its shark-like skin, and wide, batwing-like fins, had attached itself to Mountaineer Airlines Flight 2778, confusing the plane for the smooth surface of an ocean cave wall. An excavation in the waters of the Pacific Northwest has already uncovered a “Bat Shark” skeleton from an underwater cave. “Now that we know what it is, it’s much easier to find these things,” said Dr. John Bianca, an archaeologist at the University of Montana, and head of one of several teams of Bat Shark researchers. How the creature was able to stay on the wing seems relatively clear: Bat Shark has long talons on the end of its feet, which it uses, theoretically, to hide on the sides of underwater cliff faces. How it was able to breath regular oxygen is still perplexing scientists, who continue to run tests on…”
Frank slammed the magazine down.
“What?” said Carla, Frank’s new girlfriend.
“Not one mention of the passengers. Just, here’s what the creature is, here’s where it came from, here’s what it looks like. Nothing about the people on the plane.”
Carla looked at Frank, confused.
“I just thought that maybe, I’d get to say my side of it in print.”
“But they did a feature about the passengers in New York Magazine, right?” Carla asked.
“Yeah, of everybody...” Frank trailed off.
“I mean, when do I get to say what happened? I was the one who saw the thing! First, I mean. I saw it first.”
“Didn’t the flight attendant see it? That’s what the article said.”
“No, I saw it first. I saw it, and I did a whole thing. I had a paralyzing, uh, like a quandary. I couldn’t decide whether or not to tell anyone because I didn’t think anyone would believe me, so then I was paralyzed by fear of the thing and of embarrassment because everyone would think I was crazy—”
“You saw it and didn’t say anything?”
“I told you. I didn’t think anyone would believe me. I thought when I tried to show it to someone, the thing would disappear. And then everyone would be like ‘you dumbass, there’s no creature, you’re having a dream’ and so on.”
“Like in the Twilight Zone?”
“Hmm. But how would it know if you were showing someone? Like it was real life, so there’s no way the Bat Shark could know when you were pointing it out to someone. I mean from the article, it sounded like the thing was actually stuck there, in the same spot. That’s why it was trying to dig through the wing,” Carla asked.
Frank looked around Carla’s apartment, as if someone would be there to back him up.
“Well now I know it’s not like the Twilight Zone, but at the time, I didn't know! It just, uh, seemed really embarrassing! To be going through a scenario everyone had already seen? Then you just seem crazy. Like imagine if there was a real Superman. He couldn’t even save the stupid day without everyone going ‘oh that’s like Superman.’”
Carla made a face like she was really considering what to say next.
“The point is,” Frank said a little louder and more declaratively, “is that I had a very unique and specific experience, a life changing, nay, perspective altering experience, and no one wants to hear it! They just say ‘oh like that Twilight Zone,’ and I don’t even get to say what happened to me. Just because it has already happened on a television show! But the thing from the Twilight Zone never happened. My thing actually happened! Who cares if it's from the Twilight Zone? It happened to me for real!”
“I can see how that would be frustrating,” Carla said, trying to be sympathetic.
“Yeah. Well. It is!” Frank said. “I’m going to bed.”
Frank trudged up the stairs to Carla’s room. I better not have any fucking dreams, he thought.
Powered by Froala Editor
Powered by Froala Editor
Powered by Froala Editor
Powered by Froala Editor
Powered by Froala Editor
Powered by Froala Editor